Legal experts share what’s next in Joran van der Sloot federal extortion case

Joran van der Sloot to appear in court Friday morning
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 10:31 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Joran van der Sloot is being held in the Hoover City Jail, after arriving at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on Thursday, June 8, around 2 p.m. He was extradited back to Alabama, from Peru, on federal extortion charges.

van der Sloot is set to appear at the federal courthouse in Birmingham on June 9, at 11a.m. Legal experts tell WBRC that he will plead ‘not guilty’ during the arraignment, which is standard practice in federal court. He will be presented his charges, of one count wire fraud, and one count of extortion. He can plead guilty at a later date, after the arraignment, but experts are expecting this case to go to trial.

“I assume he is going to plead not guilty, and request a trial,” Birmingham Defense Attorney Roger Appell said. “He likes the glory, he likes the publicities, and he likes the spotlight. He doesn’t have anything to lose in his mind, so I believe he will force this to trial.”

If van der Sloot pleads not guilty, the court will start procedures and set dates for when motions and paperwork have to be filed, when the pre-trial hearing will be, and they will set a date for the actual trial. Experts say federal court moves much quicker than state court. They expect a trial for this extortion case to start within the next six months to a year, depending on what motions are filed.

“It doesn’t seem like a very complicated case with lots of witnesses,” Appell said. “It seems to be a very straightforward case. There will be some discovery, motions filed, but once that is all taken care of, I think they will be ready to try him within six to 12 months. We are looking at six to 12 months, tops, before he goes to trial.

van der Sloot will remain in Alabama until the end of his trial, he will then go finish the remainder of his murder sentence in Peru.

“He will be here in federal custody, until his trial is over with, and he is sentenced,’ Appell said. “We don’t know whether he is going to plead guilty or go to trial, but if he goes to trial, it’ll be longer than if he pleads guilty. If he gets a sentence here, and I am making the assumption that he will, unless it is run concurrently, which I doubt it will be, he will be returned to the United States, after he finishes his Peru sentence, to begin his federal sentence.”

Appell said the actual trial likely won’t take longer than a week, as the case appears to be pretty straight forward. But, he said finding jurors, could be the longest part in this case. He said it will be important for them to find jurors who don’t know about the case, or can put their knowledge of Holloway’s disappearance aside.

“This is not a murder trial and it’s not a case of missing Natalee Holloway,” Appell said. “This is a case of extortion. That could be the lengthiest part of the trial, is the voir dire, where they have to question the jurors. They will probably have a questionnaire, where they give the jury questions to answer, and then they submit them to both sides of the prosecution and defense. That way, they can look at them before they actually do the questioning of the jury, that could be the lengthiest part of the trial.”

van der sloot is being held in the Hoover City Jail as of June 8, but it is unclear if that is where he will remain throughout the duration of this trial. Once he finishes his jail time in Peru, if he gets a sentence here, he will be returned to the US to begin that sentence.

Click here to read more about Holloway’s case.

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